White-cheeked Honeyeater

To: Philip Veerman <>
Subject: White-cheeked Honeyeater
From: Clive Nealon <>
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2015 05:37:28 +0000

I don't intend to get into the mire that results from deciding what is a
spelling error or a typographical error, nor who decides gender for whom,
but Philip's first sentence helps reinforce just how confusing this issue
is. In the Christidis and Boles 'Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian
Birds', published by CSIRO some 15 years after their RAOU monograph, they
have changed their minds and used Phylidonyris niger while still quoting
Bechstein 1811.

On Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 12:24 PM, Philip Veerman <>

> Clive wrote that "Christidis & Boles list it as Phylidonyris niger" but
> not in my copy. Christidis & Boles (RAOU Monograph 2 1994) give it as
> Phylidonyris nigra and quote Bechstein 1811. It is also given (by Cayley)
> as Meliornis, meaning honey + bird. Not that I know much, but hard to see
> how Latin Philedon = honeyeater. Wouldn't phil relate to lover, rather than
> eater? (I would have thought eater would be phag. Is edon = honey? I would
> have thought the issue comes down to what was the spelling given at the
> time it was first described, being the correct name, unless there is a
> reason to determine that as invalid or changed. Should priority of name be
> changed just because of mismatch of gender between genus and species name?
> What a crazy idea that is, especially if it is as hard to decide as it
> would appear to be here.
> I am amused by Carl's "is a bit of a manmade word". Assuming that man
> includes women, I wonder what other sort of word exists. (Carl first left
> the n out of Phylidonyris and in the 2nd message extended this by leaving
> out the ny.) Some of these changes happen in books just because someone
> made a mistake and many other books copied the mistake. Good example is in
> the Sparrowhawk wrongly listed in many books as Accipiter cirrhocephalus
> instead of Accipiter cirrocephalus.
> Philip
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Birding-Aus  On Behalf
> Of Carl Clifford
> Sent: Tuesday, 23 June 2015 10:49 AM
> To: Martin Butterfield
> Cc: Birding-Aus
> Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] White-cheeked Honeyeater
> Hmm, that is slightly different to what is said in James Jobling's "A
> Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. If Phylidoris is one of those
> Greek-Latin hybrid words, it probably should be given a specific epithet
> that is neuter. No doubt whoever agreed on the name thought they were a
> better classicist than they actually were.
> You are right about giving words a gender, a right pain. Could be worse
> though. Latin could be still alive and well and we would have to deal with
> the declension of nouns on to of their gender. No wonder the Roman Empire
> declined.
> Carl Clifford
> > On 23 Jun 2015, at 9:44 am, Martin Butterfield <>
> wrote:
> >
> > According to "Australian Bird Names a complete guide" by Ian Fraser and
> Jeannie Gray the Philedon element comes from the Greek for "attractive",
> The Cinnyris bit does link back to sunbird .
> >
> > The business of gender of names all makes me glad we speak English, as
> with all the irrationalities in that language, at least we avoided daftness
> like having to decide what gender to apply to words such as the French
> "l'internet"!
> >
> > Martin
> >
> > Martin Butterfield
> >
> >
> >> On 22 June 2015 at 21:24, Carl Clifford <>
> wrote:
> >> Hi Clive,
> >>
> >> Bit of an update on the mystery. I have been doing a bit of a rummage
> through the library, and it seems that Phylidoyris is a bit of a manmade
> word. It comes from the French, Phylédon (Honeyeater), which comes from the
> Latin Philedon (honeyeater), cobbled together with the Latin Cynnyris
> (sunbird). No wonder the taxonomists couldn't decide which sex the word
> was. Probably should have been called nigrum, the neuter form.
> >>
> >> Carl Clifford
> >>
> >>
> >> > On 22 Jun 2015, at 4:17 pm, Clive Nealon <>
> wrote:
> >> >
> >> > Greetings,
> >> > Can someone explain, please, why HANZAB, Pizzey & Knight (8th Ed), and
> >> > Morcombe field guides list White-cheeked Honeyeater as Phylidonyris
> nigra,
> >> > and
> >> > IOC and Christidis & Boles list it as Phylidonyris niger?
> >> > Thanks.
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